May 21, 2013    /    by

The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

For some reason, there seems to be an abundance of career advice floating around social media web pages right now. What are some of these good career tips, and what is the best career advice I ever received?

 For some reason, there seems to be an abundance of career advice floating around social media web pages right now. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it is because college seniors are looking for their first “real professional” job. Or, perhaps the job market is heating up and more people are interviewing or looking for a new role. Or, maybe there are millions of people just looking for some practical advice or words of
wisdom.

 Regardless of the reason, the google search “career advice” now yields over 436 million page results that are full of tips,  tricks, dos and don’ts for getting ahead or making progress or having a vision for the future.

 I’m sorry, but I just don’t get most of this “new” career advice coming out. Much of it is situational, and almost all of it fails to inspire or motivate me. Some of the more entertaining ones I’ve read recently include items like the list: Don’t Work Too Hard: 7 Secret Sins at Work.

 While I can agree with “Don’t over decorate” and "cut back on multitasking." I disagree with most of the rest. For example: "Don’t be popular? Don’t bring in treats? Don’t talk to HR and don’t work too hard?" Are you kidding me? Is that the best we can do?

If you’re looking for more practical advice examples for the office, try one of the items on this online search list of over 2 billion results of things you should never do at work. Yes, the advice can get overwhelming.

There are certainly plenty of websites you can go to get advice as well, from how to find a job to how to get a promotion. Some of this is well thought out and other advice, not so much. The trouble is that many of the items contradict themselves or is difficult to follow - with many rabbit trails out there.

Advice I like

On the other side, I do like most of the career advice offered in the Forbes piece from last year. For example:

-  “Before you put somebody in their place, put yourself in their place….”

-  “‘If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.’ I do not have an author to credit this saying to but the person who wrote this has influenced my life in many wonderful ways….”

I also found this “contrarian” advice for professionals to be helpful:

“… Instead of making a plan around specific positions or salary, think about other ways of defining professional growth.  Maybe your career plan is to increase the span of your impact, from local to regional to national. Maybe your work changes from tactical to strategic. These kinds of career goals give you a lot more wiggle room for determining how you reach success….”

My Career Advice

I’ve given plenty of career advice to technology and security professionals through the years. Some of those articles include a series of blogs and articles on: Why security pros fail (and what to do about it). I’ve been told by both technical and non-technical professionals that these items seem to pertain to them as well.

I’ve offered some thoughts and comparisons between roles in the private and public sector in cybersecurity.   

I’ve also offered many thoughts on online ethics at home and work, such as this piece on a losing Dr. Jekyll v Mr. Hyde battle that people face when they try to manage online vices.

I’ve also written practical advice on bringing your own device to work.

The Best Career Advice I’ve Received

And while there are other good career tips that I’ve been given over the years, the words that impacted me the most came from my father in the 1980s. He was the one who challenged me early in my career to: 

- Get my master’s degree in computer science (when I was sick of going to classes).

- Live my life with a well-informed and clear conscience – which flows from personal integrity.

- Be ready for the hard times, which will surely come.

- Strive to really understand the expectations of my boss/management at work – and to do what I can to exceed those expectations.

- Understand the power of delayed gratification.

- Dream big, take risks and even be open to a move oversees.

But his best, most memorable (and most impactful) advice came from some of his last words to me a few days before he died of cancer:

“My life seems like one long day. This morning I was just a boy playing baseball. At noon, I started my career, traveled the world and married your mother. This afternoon I raised seven children, earned my PHD in psychology and counseled families at our church.  This evening I watched my grandchildren grow. And now, it is almost midnight, and I’ll meet my maker.”

Where’s the advice in that?

Plan your career with the end in mind.